Because you definitely made more than enough food.
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Credit: Photo: Aaron Kirk; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland; Food Styling: Julia Levy

For some reason, it’s way too easy to over-prepare for company. With 10 people on the guest list—hamburgers, hotdogs, roasted veggies, barbecued chicken wings, chips and dip, grilled corn, and maybe even a few steaks seems like an appropriate amount of food.

Be prepared for July 5th. You’ll surely find yourself staring dumbfounded at your fridge full of leftover selections of grilled meats, burger toppings, and bottles of beer wondering how on earth you made/collected so much food. Here are 16 ways to use every last leftover from the celebration before they go bad.


All those leftover hamburger and hot dog buns make for the perfect homemade croutons. Toss them in a salad, top a bowl of soup, or even mix them into some scrambled eggs. We love crunchy carbs in just about anything. (You can also just go ahead and stash those leftover buns in the freezer if you need to concentrate on some of the other, more time-sensitive leftovers first.)


A bright panzanella salad uses up all those leftover raw veggies and stale bread (see above for killer croutons). This Italian panzanella not only optimizes your rolls, but also any tomatoes, onion, and Dijon mustard left behind from the build-your-burger bar. If you have a bowl of ripe summer fruit stocked in the fridge from dessert, toss some in for a bit of juicy sweetness—as is delicious demonstrated in this summer strawberry panzanella.


Cakes Bacon makes everything better—especially in these corn cakes with bacon and turmeric yogurt. They’re the perfect vehicle to use up leftover grilled squash and corn. Just strip the kernels from the cob, and skip the step in the recipe that calls for sauteing the veggies. The cool and creamy yogurt topping gives these fritters a decadent and sophisticated feel that’ll likely make you forget you’re eating cookout leftovers.

Chicken Salad

Shred the meat from leftover grilled breasts or thighs and toss them into the ultimate chicken salad. We love this tahini chicken salad sandwich, which also uses leftover hamburger toppers like tomato and onion. That’s a win-win.


This mouth-watering sorghum-mustard beer sauce is the ultimate way to make great use of yesterday’s beer and mustard (you know, the beer you’re not likely to drink and the mustard you spooned out into a cute little ramekin for presentation). Plus, if you tossed some sausages on the grill, they’ll be exceptional dippers, almost as good as these boudin fritters. Of course, this sauce is a good way to punch up any simple grilled meat.

Beer-Flavored Proteins

If you’re one of those people who finds yourself with an excess of leftover beer after a cookout or pool party, pour some into a beer-battered fried fish recipe or use leftover hot dogs in this beer-battered corn dogs recipe. If you would rather skip the deep frying, beer-brushed tofu skewers or beer-can chicken are always tasty picks.


You’re probably thinking that the last thing you want on a hot summer day is steamy soup. But, think again. This slow cooker corn chowder will use up every last bit of your corn, and it takes just minutes to toss it in the slow cooker and turn it on. If you have some extra bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions lying around, you may want to try our delicious copycat Panera Bread Summer Corn Chowder.

Pasta Salad

There’s no need to dig into a bowl full of mayo-packed pasta salad that’s been sitting out in the hot sun all day (just toss it, please). Make a fresh batch of noodles and pack it with all your grilled and fresh veggies—like this grilled corn pasta salad. You can add in yellow mustard, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onion, corn, avocados, tomatoes, and whatever meat you have in the fridge.


Is it just us, or does everything taste better in taco-form? Barbecued pork and remaining bright tomatoes are the perfect pair in these slow-cooker pork tacos with fresh tomato salsa, and chicken thighs and watermelon make for a sweet bite in this recipe for crunchy jerk tacos with watermelon-mango salsa. If you’re left with grilled fish and a few ears of corn, grilled corn and fish tacos are your best pick, and leftover steak is just begging to be a part of these carne asada tacos.


There’s something about a chewy pizza crust topped with endless veggies, meats, and cheeses that makes a drool-worthy dinner. Go veg-forward with a tomato, basil, and corn pizza or swap in some leftover grilled veggies in this summer squash pizza. If you prefer your pizza a bit more meaty, use leftover ingredients for this smoked sausage, grilled corn, and sweet onion pizza or sheet pan cobb salad pizza—just sub in whatever meat, cheese, and veggies you have on hand.


This may be the easiest way to use up every last bit of your barbeque remains. Grilled chicken tastes great in this BBQ chicken with peach and feta slaw or grilled chicken and vegetable summer salad. Leftover steak and veggies can top toasted farro, like this grilled steak and vegetable salad and already-formed patties work great crumbled over cabbage leaves in this Thai beef-and-cabbage salad. Slices of watermelon are a bright addition to watermelon-tomato salad and leftover fish, corn, and potatoes make an excellent summer nicoise salad.


If tossing leftover ingredients into a salad isn’t quite your thing, maybe piling them high between some bread is. Use already-cooked veggies in this grilled caponata panini or Mexican-style grilled vegetable sandwich. If you have slices of steak leftover, spice them up and stuff them in a pita for a street-cart worthy grilled flank steak gyro.


Frittatas are the ultimate clean-out-your-fridge breakfast. They’re so versatile, we have 30 frittata recipes we love for breakfast or any time of the day. It’s your opportunity to use up very last bit of veggies, meats, cheeses, and herbs in one earth-shattering pan. You’re welcome.


Tortilla chips topped with anything is just about the most delicious dinner ever—and you’ll probably have some remaining bags from your Fourth of July party. Shred up your leftover meat of choice, and grab your leftover cheese, tomatoes, and guacamole for a custom version of quick and easy nachos. If you have some leftover, cooked hamburgers, this skillet nacho dip is perfect.

Stir Fry

A simple 10-minute chicken stir-fry can bring together all of your remaining veggies and chicken. Swap in any protein or veg you haven’t used from your barbeque, and it’s go-time.


A big bowl of grits is the ultimate backdrop to more decadent proteins. Have some brisket on hand? Make pimiento cheese and brisket grits. Maybe some country ham and shrimp? There’s a grits for that. How about cooked pork shoulder? Italian-style grits and greens is the answer you’ve been looking for.